In Honor of Earth Day

April 19, 2008

For those working to protect the environment, the month of April is like New Year’s; the arrival of spring reminds us of the beauty and majesty of the natural environment.  We renew our resolve to protect that environment and Earth Day festivities help to educate and engage individuals and communities on a range of environmental issues. In light of all this, it makes sense that the Goldman Fund announces its annual Goldman Environmental Prize winners every April. Once again this year, six environmental activists, one from each continent (except Antarctica), received this prestigious award.  And once again, I am fortunate enough to know one of the recipients: Marina Rikhvanova from Russia.  Marina’s organization, Baikal Environmental Wave, is one of the cornerstone environmental NGOs in her country.  Despite a government which has become increasingly hostile towards the NGO community, Marina and her colleagues can claim some amazing accomplishments.  First and foremost was the successful fight to keep construction of the world’s longest oil pipeline away from the world’s deepest fresh water lake, Lake Baikal.  Oil and gas development are not the only threats to the lake and the surrounding region.  Marina is now leading the effort to stop the construction of a uranium enrichment center near the lake.  Taking on both the oil industry and the nuclear industry in Russia is no small task and Marina does this despite personal and professional risks.  Not everyone faces such daunting challenges, but recognizing those who do can and should inspire us to do more to protect the natural world around us in ways big and small.